How to Pick Out a Kitchen Backsplash

Choosing a backsplash for your kitchen can seem overwhelming with so many options available. A backsplash serves both form and function in the kitchen. It protects your walls from splashes and stains while also providing an opportunity to add visual interest and personality. With some planning and research, you can confidently pick out a kitchen backsplash that suits your taste, lifestyle and budget.

Determine Your Style

The first step is deciding what overall look and feel you want for your kitchen. Visit showrooms, browse home magazines and pin images online to help identify the styles you are drawn to. Some popular kitchen backsplash styles include:

  • Modern: Clean lines, simple patterns, metal and glass materials
  • Farmhouse: Vintage appeal, subway tiles, neutrals and blues
  • Transitional: A blend of traditional and contemporary elements
  • Rustic: Natural materials like stone and wood, earthy tones
  • Coastal: Aquas and sandy neutrals, shells and wave patterns
  • Eclectic: A mix of colors, textures and materials

Once you recognize a style or two that you love, it will help narrow down your backsplash options.

Consider the Practicalities

Beyond just looks, there are some practical considerations for selecting a kitchen backsplash. Think about:

  • Durability: Glass, metal and stone tend to be very durable and resistant to stains, heat and moisture. Ceramic tiles are also very sturdy.
  • Maintenance: Materials that are smooth and non-porous like glass and metal will be easiest to keep clean.
  • Cost: Prices can range widely, with glass or stone tending to be more expensive than ceramic tile.
  • DIY vs Pro Install: Some materials like subway tile can be DIY-friendly, while large format stone may require a professional.

Factor in how much wear-and-tear the space sees, whether you want to DIY or hire out, and your overall budget. This will help narrow the realistic material choices.

Complement the Design Elements

Once you select your materials, there are design details to consider that relate to the overall kitchen aesthetic:

Color Scheme

  • Pull colors from your cabinetry, countertops, appliances or flooring to create a cohesive look.
  • Lighter, neutral backsplashes pair well with bolder cabinet colors.
  • Warm backsplash hues (browns, reds, oranges) complement granite or stainless steel.

Patterns and Textures

  • Busy countertops or floors may call for a solid backsplash color.
  • Mixing materials (stone + glass mosaic) adds interest; pair with simple cabinets.
  • Large statement patterns need room to shine without competing elements.

Backsplash Height

  • Standard height is 4 inches from counter to bottom of upper cabinets.
  • Extend to bottom of cabinets for a full wall look.
  • Limit to a small strip if counters or cabinets have impact.

Finished Edges

  • Bullnose edges have rounded finished corners, while square edges are more modern.
  • Edging matches the counter material for an integrated look.
  • Contrasting edges highlight the backsplash as a focal point.

Assess Functionality Needs

In addition to aesthetics, assess the functional requirements for your backsplash based on how you use the kitchen:

  • Heat and moisture resistance if behind a cooktop or range
  • Stain resistance near cooking prep areas
  • Easy cleanability for high traffic zones
  • Impact resistance if prone to heavy use or drops
  • Non-porous and seamless materials in wet areas

Consider the day-to-day activities in your kitchen and choose materials suited for those demands. Reading product specifications can help align options with your needs.

Evaluate the Pros and Cons of Materials

With your style, design elements, practicalities and functionality in mind, dive deeper into the pros, cons and costs of specific backsplash materials:

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

Pros: Available in endless colors, patterns and textures. Affordable, easy DIY, durable.

Cons: Grout requires sealing and cleaning. Vulnerable to stains and moisture.

Cost: $3 – $20 per square foot.

Glass Tile

Pros: Shiny, elegant material. Translucent options available. Resists moisture and stains.

Cons: Requires specialized cutting for install. Grout needs sealing. Pricey.

Cost: $15 – $50 per square foot.

Natural Stone

Pros: Beautiful veining and pattern. Each piece unique. Withstands heat.

Cons: Hefty price tag. Requires sealing. Difficult DIY. Stains easily.

Cost: $40 – $100 per square foot.

Stainless Steel

Pros: Sleek, modern look. Resists heat, moisture, stains and impact. Easy to clean.

Cons: Can dent. Challenging DIY install. Shows fingerprints.

Cost: $40 – $75 per square foot.

Glass Sheets

Pros: Smooth, seamless appearance. Non-porous and easily cleaned. Resists kitchen elements.

Cons: Expensive. Heat and impact vulnerability. Pro installation needed.

Cost: $100+ per square foot.

This overview of various backsplash materials, their benefits and downsides, along with general pricing, can further help refine your selection.

See Samples In Person

While photos online can provide inspiration, seeing material samples in person is an important step. Visit home improvement stores to view small-scale samples or tile showrooms to view full wall mockups showcasing backsplashes.

Notice how the color, texture, sheen and grout look in real life under both natural and artificial light. Look at samples from a distance and up close. Bring home or purchase samples to test in your kitchen.

Match with Counters, Cabinets and Floors

With your frontrunner material and style options in mind, hold physical samples next to your countertops, cabinets and floors. Look at them near appliances too. This allows you to see how your potential backsplash integrates with your existing kitchen finishes in true lighting.

If the combo doesn’t excite you, explore ways to tie them together more cohesively, like adding new cabinet hardware or replacing cabinet knobs. Keep testing until you land on a backsplash you feel great about.

Review Installation Needs

Understand how to best install your backsplash choice and whether DIY is feasible or pro help is recommended. Watch online tutorials to gauge the process. Factor in special tools or skills needed for your material.

Read through the manufacturer specifications and requirements. For example, some natural stones require backerboard, certain tiles demand particular grout types, and large format materials need specialized cutting.

If hiring out, get quotes from experienced professionals. Provide them with your exact product details and specifications so estimating is aligned.

Order Samples and Test for Performance

Before selecting a final product line, order larger samples, such as 8″x8″ squares. Use double-sided tape to apply them on areas of your existing backsplash.

Leave them in place and put them to use! Run your kitchen as normal for a few weeks. Do pots and pans bump or scratch the surface? Do spices and oils stain it? Heat from the stove or water splashes are good tests.

This will reveal if it can truly withstand your cooking habits and cleaning regimen before a full investment. It also allows you to view an expanded area rather than just a small swatch.

Create Your Final Design Mockup

Using your actual backsplash dimensions, create a mockup board to preview your final design. This is helpful for envisioning the full scope and finalizing pattern placement.

  • Use a large board or poster paper and draw in your backsplash area to scale.
  • Print out scaled tile images or stick material swatches in the desired locations.
  • Play with arrangements and combinations until it is just right.
  • Evaluate if any problematic spots need a design change for function.

Use this final mockup for your own review and to show installers to follow. It will also help with purchasing accurate quantities.

Ask About Contractor Guarantees

If hiring professional installers, inquire about any warranties or satisfaction guarantees they offer should issues arise with the quality of work or materials selected. Reputable contractors and designers will provide peace of mind if anything goes wrong.

Be sure you understand exactly how they will handle grouting, cuts, the installation process and clean up. A clearly outlined scope of work, along with guarantees helps avoid problems down the road.

Purchase Extra Tiles

Plan to purchase 10-15% more tile than the total square footage measurements. This provides a buffer for miscuts, damage, or future repairs needed. Leftover whole tiles are useful for replacing sections that become damaged over time.

Properly store extra materials for future use according to manufacturers specifications. Keep any product codes or names noted somewhere for easy reference.

Follow All Prep and Install Instructions

Carefully read and follow the manufacturer instructions for proper surface prep, underlayments if needed, approved adhesives, grout types and sealers. Failure to adhere to guidelines can void warranties and lead to installation failures or safety hazards.

Patience is also key – don’t rush through the meticulous process. Take your time measuring, leveling, applying, spacing and grouting to get professional looking results.

Enjoy Your New Backsplash!

With careful planning and attention to all the steps, you are on your way to a head-turning kitchen backsplash that both protects your kitchen and makes it uniquely you.

Always have a stable step stool handy so you can easily wipe away any new food splatters on your prized backsplash. Keep sealing and cleaning products on hand to care for it properly long-term.

Most importantly, relax and enjoy cooking beautiful meals in your personalized dream kitchen!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some budget-friendly backsplash options?

Some of the most affordable choices are ceramic or porcelain tile, tin backsplashes, and peel-and-stick tiles or panels. Smart design tricks like using accent strips vs. full backsplashes also help cut costs.

What’s the best backsplash for a busy cook?

For avid home cooks, durable and seamless materials like stainless steel, glass sheets, and quartz slabs hold up best to heavy usage, moisture, oils and potential stains.

Can you put backsplash tile over existing tile?

It is possible, but can lead to thickness issues. It’s recommended to remove old backsplash tile before installing new so the wall is flat and smooth.

What height should a backsplash be?

The standard backsplash height is 4 inches from counter to bottom of upper cabinets. Full height backsplashes extending to bottom of upper cabinets are also popular.

What’s the most stain resistant backsplash?

Glass, metal and quartz backsplashes resist stains the best. Ceramic tile is very durable, but the grout lines can be more prone to staining from oils and foods. Sealing is key.


Choosing the perfect backsplash brings any kitchen together with the ideal blend of style, function and your unique taste. Keep your goals, lifestyle and design ethos in mind as you thoughtfully weigh the options. Combining your aesthetic vision with realistic aspects of durability, maintenance and cost will lead you to the ideal backsplash decision. With your dream design installed, enjoy a beautifully coordinated space to cook and gather in for years to come.